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How does Culture affect communication? Last fall I was privileged to travel for clients to far-away lands: South Africa, Egypt, and the Philippines, with a travel layover in Paris thrown in as a bonus. As an infrequent international traveler (although that seems to be changing), I had much to learn about airports, shots, Visas, jetlag, and… culture.

For years my go-to book for cultural advice has been Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands. It gives history, social etiquette advice, business advice, and travel advice for 60+ countries. But I found it to be inaccurate for several of my destinations last year. For instance, the book told me that in Egypt, the left hand is unclean and should not be used for gestures. I found almost everyone using their left hand, and when I asked my host, he seemed shocked that it was even a “thing”.

Soon after my return, my brother (who has traveled internationally quite a bit with over a year-and-a-half total spent out of country) gave me a copy of The Culture Map. While this book does not give the same type of advice as KBoSH, it has changed the way I think, the way I teach, the way I communicate, and certainly the way I travel.

The author – who has traveled and lived internationally most of her life – compares eight characteristics across cultures. She examines communication style, feedback, persuasion, leadership, decisions, trust, disagreeing, and timeliness. She then puts every major country on a scale, highlighting the differences with poignant and sometimes funny anecdotes of how lack of cultural awareness can lead to results that are awkward on one extreme and devastating to business at the other.

How does culture affect communication? We’ve long examined Culture in our workshops as it relates to skills. For example, palatable eye contact is notably different in the South (2-3 seconds) than the North (almost none) versus Asia (none due to honor and deference) to the extreme (10 seconds) in the Middle East. Gestures that are acceptable (or not) across the world are always an interesting conversation (no, you’re not #1, and it’s not OK, and we’re not at peace). We make the point that Culture trumps whatever “rule” we can establish. I remember a French student in one of our workshops telling an American he was too loud. “If you talk like that in France, we would dismiss you as being impolite.”

I had a blunt introduction to inter-cultural communication on my first foray as an international speaker. I had been invited to give the keynote to a mostly-European audience in Germany. When I was done, I was surprised that no one came up to speak to me. Usually as a speaker someone (or many someones) from the audience will come up to ask a question, offer a related story, or perhaps just share appreciation for a job well done. This group just cleared out. The room was empty just minutes after I was done. When I wandered the halls after the talk, no one really even spoke to me. I felt terrible. I had tried to research and create content that was palatable for an international audience. It was clear to me I had failed. I went to my German host and apologized for missing the mark and asked directly if there was feedback that I could improve upon. “Oh, they loved you!” I explained that no one had said a word to me. She laughed. “That’s just Germans. If you had done a bad job, I’d have found out immediately. They’re already wondering when you’ll come back.”

I’ve always given a loose definition of Culture as “an unwritten set of rules accepted by a group of people as law”. Culture could be defined by country, language, gender, age, professional group, family, job title, and even the type of car you drive. It’s an amazing field of study with enough nuance to keep any communicator on his toes.

Awareness of Culture can mean the difference between a friend and an enemy, becoming a preferred vendor or being blacklisted, a marriage in the royal court or a pending war. Understanding nuances is vital. For instance, a nod and a “yes” in Asia does not mean they agree. Many Asian cultures will simply not deny a direct proposal regardless of their intent.

An interesting chapter in Ms. Meyer’s book is on feedback. If I give you an annual review that goes like this: “We love having you on board. You’re a great asset to our team. But we start our day at 9 a.m. and I note you’re rarely at your desk at that time. It’d probably be a good idea if you could arrive prior to nine. But we look forward to your talents on our team and what you can do for us in the coming year.” Ask most any American what the message means and you’ll get a quick response: “You better get your tail to work on time!” But in some cultures of the world where indirect feedback is valued, your employee might resign to save you the embarrassment of having to fire them (not your intent). Direct feedback cultures might not even hear the correction, focusing on the front-and-center message that you love their work.

I had a “Duh!” moment from my time with an international client (before I read the book). I was trying to get the lead presenter to make The Ask. In true Western fashion, I wanted the core message front and center, repeated as often as possible and ending with a direct ask for the work (accompanied by eye contact and a genuine smile). What I got in practice was hints and hedges and hesitation. There was no direct ask. After reading the book, I realize I was asking this person to deny his upbringing and contradict every bit of courtesy he had ever been taught. An indirect culture does not ask for what they want, at least not bluntly. They hint and use nuance to get the query on the table. It’s weak to Western eyes and ears; it’s law in much of the Eastern world.

How does culture affect communication? One thing that doesn’t change and that I’m more and more adamant about is Rule #1. No matter who you are dealing with, successful communication requires a willful commitment to the receiver’s well-being. It’s not about you. The Culture of the audience is a major consideration worth examining. Although my next international trip is not scheduled for a while, I’ll be experiencing the grand cultures in the States with upcoming trips to Boston, Baltimore, Richmond, Kansas City, Lincoln, and Chicago. I’d love to hear about your experiences with different cultures.

Communication matters. What are you saying?
  • How have you misread the Culture of your audience?
  • What intercultural situations might give you cause for increased care when crafting your message?
  • What assumptions are you making as you craft your main message?

Learn more about our public and on-site communications and speaking workshops and training.

This article was published in the April Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post How does Culture affect communication? appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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There are four steps to becoming great at anything. This includes learning how to drive. It’s my second (and last!) experience training a teen driver. Driver #2 has a different outlook, a few challenges (a few months off due to a surgery which equated to less practice), and less of a desire to even drive.  But the goal from Dear-Ole-Dad is the same – a safe driver who can navigate the road with OTHERS who are distracted, texting, or just not capable.

Last night we took the final practice tour.  Panic stops.  Three-point turns.  Parking positional awareness.  And a few tests Dear-Ole-Dad cooked up because he loves to think about and practice ways to help people learn more effectively (drive my 5,000-pound pickup truck for the first time; guess the speed with the speedometer covered up; park with the tires on a line; find your way home from a road you’ve never been on).

The final practice wasn’t without mishap.  Three-point turns were a challenge because an awareness of the actual location of the wheels hadn’t been mastered. In two panic stops, our lovely car with all the technology and anti-lock brakes screeched the tires twice.  The anxiety was building.  I could tell that nervousness would play a role in the final exam.

On the way to the DMV, Driver #2 announced, “I’m really nervous.”  (I didn’t let on, but so was I).  But I repeated what I’ve said so many times to our clients: “It’s when we’re nervous that training kicks in.  Just do what you know is right and execute like we’ve practiced.”

“I just hope I don’t have to do a panic stop, and that it stops raining,” she said (we picked a rainy day so the lines would be shorter).

Much to our chagrin, the examiner was all business, didn’t laugh at Dear-ole-Dad’s jokes, and was less than cordial (“Ten times worse than the stereotypical DMV examiner” – although drama and exaggeration are no stranger to this teen).

I’ve used the example of driving many times to compare to the skill of speaking well.  It’s the autonomous behavior from training and practice that enables a speaker to focus on audience response, callbacks, the message, and responding to the needs of the audience.  It’s finding small, incremental improvements to make and putting yourself in a position to gain experience to handle any occurrence.  It takes work to be good.

Oh, and the nerves.  I’ve met precious few people who can say they don’t get nervous at all when they have a big talk to give.  The final walk-through can add to nerves.  Not everything will go smoothly.  Anticipation can be the worst part.  But the show must go on.  Speaking – and driving – are integral parts to our lives and careers in this environment.

But from the examiner’s (that’s the audience!) point-of-view, it’s all about just doing it correctly.  Give the right message, in the right time, in the right way, and fix any problems that come up.

Becoming great (at anything) follows a predictable and repeatable process:
  1. Knowledge – learn what you need to do (Driver’s Ed!)
  2. Practice – under instruction, focus on repeatable behaviors (drive straight) until they can be done with effort (supervised driving)
  3. Experience – as competence comes, gain a broader base of capability building on the existing ability
  4. Constant Improvement – instead of settling for the current ability level, evaluate and seek help to relentlessly improve.

A teenage driver can get somewhere into step three.  Enough to let dad give them the keys.  But I hope and expect them to get even better.

Oh, the rain did stop.  And the examiner didn’t ask for a panic stop.  He seemed pleased that he got a “No, I’m just nervous” answer to the “Do you always drive this slow?” question (that’d be like asking a speaker, “Are your words always this confusing?”).

I’m pleased to announce Driver #2 is now in possession of a valid North Carolina license. You might need to be worried about that more than your next chance to speak!

  • What skill do you need to practice?
  • What new experience would make you better?
  • What examiner could you ask for feedback?
  • What will it take for you to become great?
Communication matters. What are you saying?

www.MillsWyck.com

This article was published in the March Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post Four Steps to Become Great at Anything appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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How do you match your story to a moral? And how do you use it in public speaking?

Match your story to a moral… I had a dream.  Not a Martin Luther King, Jr. dream.  A real dream.  One while I was sleeping.  I suppose that I have lots of dreams, but I don’t remember very many of them.  This one I did remember and it’s more than a bit disturbing.

I found myself in the camera view of an action thriller. A sick girl/woman named Chris (who I did not know) was in the hospital.  A man – also named Chris and also someone I did not know (even my dreams are confusing), was stalking her.  Eventually, he attacked her and killed her.  Thankfully, I dream in PG, and there was no gore or even specifics about how he killed her.  I just know I witnessed it like a movie camera would, and it unnerved me as I moved to the next scene.  I’m not sure what happened next – that part is foggy.  But at some point, a hospital worker was examining she-Chris’s body.  Maybe this was the medical examiner?  As she unwrapped the face of she-Chris, the previously dead person breathed deeply and we realized she was still alive.  The medical person then left the room, leaving me with our victim.  It was then I realized the he-Chris was still on the prowl.  I don’t know how I knew, but he was headed our way.  She-Chris seemed unconcerned.  Despite my pleas for us to leave, she remained calm, steadfast, and very much hunted.  The music built in intensity, warning me and anyone else watching this movie that he-Chris was coming closer.  I ducked under the sheet on the gurney, leaving poor she-Chris to fend for herself.  He-Chris entered the room, and like a good killer, walked slowly around the bed (containing ME!) towards his victim.  I acted quickly.  Somehow the sheets came off cleanly and I jumped towards the assailant with the intent to do him bodily harm through the only weapon I had with me: my fists.  I swung for his face, and connected with…

The alarm clock beside my bed.  I literally punched the clock.  It went flying.  My reading glasses suffered a broken lens.  I cleared my nightstand with one jab punch.  And I came far too close to breaking my hand (thankfully only some minor cuts and a sprain of my index finger).  At this point, I transitioned from dreamland to wide awake.

I doubt I’ve remembered two dreams in the last decade. It seems a shame I wasted good memory on this one.  I can be glad that my dream perpetrator was on my left (nightstand) side and not my right (spouse) side.  That would have been tough to explain.

I don’t watch many action thrillers.  I’m not a violent person.  I’ve never seen anyone get killed and have never acted in physical rage towards another human.  I wondered for half a day what this dream might mean.  But it was a wild story.  It sure felt like I could work it in someplace.  How could I use it on the stage or in the classroom?  Was it anything more than just a crazy dream?

So I practiced what we teach in our storytelling class: Match your story to a moral. What is the moral to my dumb dream? Where could this story fit?  I came up with three lessons and places to use my senseless dream: 1.  Punching the clock is no way to live

A phrase that originates from old analog timecards that had to be inserted into a time stamp machine to log a worker’s hours, it has come to mean putting effort into a mindless task or a job without meaning.  It’s the bane of middle age and the middle class – a pointless job in an empty existence.  It’s a concept that scares me almost as much as teenage boys wanting to date my daughter.  Fighting the urge to merely punch the clock takes discipline, tough decisions, and action.  It’s also a major concept in my new keynote: The Four Questions: Winning at What Matters.  Now I’ve got an opening story for the section on just going through the motions (punching the clock).

2.  Reality (to us) is what we perceive

While an outside observer would have seen a fitful sleeper tossing and turning before he mysteriously popped out of bed and pummeled the GE alarm clock, in my mind, the Chris’s were real and I needed to do something.  It seems silly, but you could not have convinced me at the moment that I was not in that hospital saving a helpless woman from a deadly threat.  Our reality is often skewed.  We see this in our public speaking classes all the time.  People think they’re loud when the audience can barely hear them.  We coach people out of these behaviors by showing them the GAP between perception and reality.  This is most easily done through the use of video, which seems to be more trustworthy than a speech coach.

3.  Our dreams should change our lives… today

Last year’s tens-digit birthday caused me to reflect on what I want to accomplish in my limited time remaining on the earth.  Sadly, most of our daily lives and activities are doing nothing to bring us closer to those dreams we’ve harbored.  It almost always takes a disruptive force for us to change.  Maybe a figurative punch in the face (or clock?).  I’ve enjoyed reading Benjamin Hardy’s thoughts on making the most of today.  What can you change today?

While I hope that throwing jabs in my sleep is a one-and-done occurrence, it shows that unique experiences can teach us, inspire us, and give us a platform for memorable communication.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

Learn how to create your own stories with morals in our 3-hour Storytelling Workshop. See our full list of public and on-site corporate workshops.

This article was published in the February Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post Storytelling in public speaking: Match your story to a moral appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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Worst compliment ever?

When I first heard this worst compliment ever at one of my high school reunions, it struck me hard. “You haven’t changed a bit.” I’m sure it was meant as a compliment. I wish they were applying it to my weight, physique, innocence, or maybe even my potential. Those things have all changed. But I realized quickly this well-meaning blast from the past just had no idea who I was or where I had been. And I realized I had no idea where I was going. None of us knows for sure.

(Side note: I haven’t been back to a reunion since.)

In my former professional life, I went to a “Who Moved My Cheese” seminar where the concept of Capacity for Change was introduced. Some people love it (I do). Some people hate it (Groundhog Day lovers who want tomorrow to be just like today). But one thing is for sure: change is coming. Some good. Some bad. Some just is. But things will never stay completely as they are. Social trends change. Relationships change. Skills change. Businesses change.

I love January. Perhaps it’s because my birthday and my son’s birthday are early in the year. Perhaps the challenge to train my brain to write 2-0-1-NINE on all my notes (I don’t write many checks and most of my typing autofills, so this isn’t as big a deal as it once was). Perhaps it’s my annual trek to find One Word to focus on for the year. Or maybe it’s that inner hope that the future will be better than the past. It isn’t always so, of course, but we humans cannot shake the hope that it will be.

Since this newsletter is the place where I can share with a wide and very diverse audience on my thoughts and ideas on how communication and coaching change our lives, I’ll avoid making this a personal accounting of the personal changes that are a constant source of joy and frustration (and since I abandoned social media to share about me long ago, you’ll have to spend time with me to find out – something I learned this year from my international roamings). But 2018 was a year of amazing change and opportunity. Since I can’t predict the future, I’ll just say it will be tough to top.

And because the past is behind us and cannot be changed, I want to turn our attention to the future and what might change. Certainly, the most important change we can strive for is that of ourselves. Not our government, our neighbor, or the economy. The first step is awareness. The honest truth. That’s the biggest promise we make to our clients. We will give you the truth about your skills and the path forward. And – if you’re willing – we can be an instrument of change for your communication skills and the opportunities that will open.

We have some new resources that can be part of your journey and your communication goals:
  • ProScan Certified – We are now certified to administer the ProScan personal dynamics survey. This comprehensive tool allows clients to understand themselves and their pre-wired challenges to communicating and leading well. Good for individuals or teams, it takes only ten minutes to take and an hour to debrief.
  • New Podcast – The MillsWyck Minute podcast. As per our philosophy, these practical, short, and fun tips will challenge and educate you. Catch them on the go or use them to start discussions with your team.
  • Two new trainers – More on this at a later date, but we have two new trainers on board to give us more options and more expertise to train your group, anywhere in the world, whenever it works for you.
  • Online Video Training – We’re working on some online video training resources that can be accessed on your schedule and in your location.

While we are excited about the future, enjoy with us just a short moment as we look back at some of our more prominent highlights of 2018:

  • We spun off and launched alanhoffler.com, the speaking website of our founder, Alan Hoffler (he speaks, too!). This includes two new keynotes (The Four Questions and Coaching to Win).
  • We repaired and moved MillsWyck.com to a more reliable server to prevent future hacks.
  • Alan started a mentoring program for professional men a half generation behind him, walking them through a six-month program of growth and discovery.
  • We coached a record number of private clients (identities cannot be shared, but we got to be part of some amazing folks’ lives!).
  • We served clients with an unprecedented international travel schedule in South Africa, Egypt, and the Philippines, as well as multiple domestic locations.

Alan Hoffler taking time to enjoy the sights in Egypt during a recent corporate training and coaching session. (Alan is the Executive Director and Principal Trainer at MillsWyck Communications)

That was all great, but the best is yet to come!

What can you do to make positive change in your life today? Don’t let anyone have a chance to give you the worst compliment and tell you that you haven’t changed a bit.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the January Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post The worst compliment ever appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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The word community has a new meaning in my life. I was in the audience of a presentation where the word community (for reasons of space on a PowerPoint slide) was hyphenated and split across lines, like this:

comm- unity

I made a mental note that the presenter had forgotten the rules of hyphenation.  But seeing the word “Comm” by itself made me think “Communication”.  For the first time in my life, I noticed that the words communication and community share a common root.  I felt really dumb for not noticing that before.

I contemplated what this meant.  My conclusion struck me as rather profound.  Communication – like community — is a way that people connect.  We teach connection in our workshops all the time – it’s what makes people want to listen; makes people say, “She’s talking to me!”; and compels them to think about the application of the subject to their own lives.

Fail to connect and you’ll fail to get a response.

Back to my hyphenated revelation.  Comm-unity.  As a compound word, it would mean having unity or like views in our communication.  That’s the holy grail.  Everyone in the same room, same organization, or same forum saying and hearing the same thing.  It means that we have a like purpose and are executing for a common goal.  There’s that root “comm” showing up again: common.  Shared equally by all.  Pertaining to an entire group.

There’s a theme emerging here, and I think it makes a wonderful mission statement for a speaker.  Our goal is to find the common ground or at least a resonant theme that has everyone considering the same outcome.  Good communicators get their audience to spend their precious brain power on the subject at hand. Great communicators do it in such a way that the listeners feel compelled to believe the outcome is possible, plausible, and probable.

I must learn to speak your language.  And you benefit from learning to listen to mine.

That’s lock-step with what I’m championing in my latest keynote, The Four Questions.  We need to define success (in anything) in order to align our efforts with our objectives.  I am seeing so many organizational failures at the root of defining what success looks like.  Usually, the stock answer is that people buy, they are “converted”, or they like us.  But all of that is really out of our control.  All I can hope for is that they consider my proposal, understand my outline, or could repeat my arguments to win them over.  Their actual response is frequently based on items that are NOT in the communication realm (budget, politics, peer pressure, or tradition).  My favorite question to ask when interviewing for a workshop or speaking engagement: “What’s success look like if I do a great job?” (See other questions I ask in my blog entitled Questions speakers should ask BEFORE they speak.)

Which brings us back to common-community-communication.  It’s the core of a great committee, a lasting commitment, an inspiring commander, responsible commissioners, profitable commerce, the future of our commonwealth, a positive commotion, and gives us a reason to insert a comma.

Rather than spending all your time focused on YOUR material and YOUR organization, ask yourself what the AUDIENCE wants and how you can connect with them.  Most people tell us they spend upwards of 90% of their time focused on their content.  Give some of that time to considering your audience, and great things will happen to your communication.

Need a speaker?  Alan’s new keynote is filled with examples and inspiration on finding strategy and purpose that will give motivation, joy, and staying power to an individual or group.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the December Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

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It’s starting to be a common call here at MillsWyck Communications.  “How can I become a professional speaker?” or maybe the more tentative, “Do you think anyone would pay me to speak?”  Usually it’s a person with an amazing story that’s been told repeatedly they should go “on tour”.  Sometimes it’s someone with stars in their eyes who believes it’s an easy way to make a living.  Rarely does the inquiry come with a realistic view of what it takes to make the stage for a price that makes it worthwhile.

I have lots of follow-up questions for the prospective professional speaker, like:
  • What do you mean by professional speaker?
  • Why do you want to be a professional speaker?
  • Do you have a need to make money soon?
  • Do you know anyone who is doing what you want to do?
In addition to those probing questions, there are three basic questions I tell people they must answer to be ready to ask for and receive paid speaking engagements. 1.)  What are you going to say?

Unless your last name is Clinton or Bush or Zuckerburg, your first name is LeBron or Oprah, you have two first names like Elton John, a title like King or Princess, or you landed an airplane in a river or a lander on the moon, chances are people are going to want your message to have something to say to the audience rather than the simple fact that you are you or have a (great) story.  Finding this message is hard.  I like to get clients to cull it down to one, simple sentence.  It usually takes us hours to discover.

  1. Client examples:
    • Little things make a big difference (customer service)
    • Make the first easy pass (simplicity)
    • Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day (inspiring others)
    • Championship teams embrace a culture of change (overcoming obstacles)
2.)  Who are you going to say it to?

Just because you have a great story or a great idea does not mean that an audience will want to hear you relate your wisdom.  The more specific you can get about who you are speaking to, the more you can market and book speaking engagements successfully.  “All humanity” is a bad target market.  People who have had adversity is likewise too vague.

The follow-up question to knowing your target audience is this: Are these people all in the same room at the same time?  If you’re trying to speak to developers using Java through SASS, then the answer is probably yes.  If the target is people who have faced cancer, then they probably aren’t all at the same conference at the same time.  That makes marketing more difficult.

Client examples:

  • Engineering and Construction owners and managers
  • Youth who aspire to play a role in politics
  • Agile programmers and managers
  • Leaders and executives facing large-scale change
3.)  Who is going to pay you to say it?

This is the reality check for a lot of great people with great messages.  The most common example is people who want to inspire youth to stay off drugs or find their purpose in life or a great cause like animal rights or educating the homeless so they can be productive members of society.  The problem in most of these cases is the audience is not likely to pay a cent to hear your message.  Youth aren’t lining up with wallets open to hear people inspire them to become wonderful adults.  Adults may pay to have the youth in their life hear such a message, but we’ve got a gap between who hears the message and who pays for the message.  Identifying the buyer is critical for any business, and none more criticial than speaking.

Client examples:

  • (very common) The corporate sponsor of a large-scale event (division meeting, customer conference, trade show/expo)
  • Team leads and managers with a specific need (everything from college coaches to a sales manager to a church or civic organization)
  • Meeting planners (hired by some entity to handle the hiring of a speaker)

These questions are necessary, but not sufficient.  You’ll also need a presence (most likely a web presence) to show your legitimacy.  You’ll need a method (email, direct mail, cold call) to contact your buyers. You’ll have to have a sample video to demonstrate competence (people are not going to hire a speaker sight unseen).  You’ll probably need some method for collecting names and prospects to have a constant prospect list.  You’ll need a system for following up to close the deal.  And you’ll need a rate sheet everyone can understand so you can get paid.  There are a LOT of variables and nuances.  The de facto leader in educating and implementing the business of speaking is the National Speaker’s Association.  You can spend tens of thousands of dollars with their members putting a system in place.  Many are worth their fees, and then some.  But at its core, speaking is just another business.  You must have a worthy product presented to people who have a need and the ability to pay.  You must overcome obstacles and strike quickly when opportunity arises.  Nothing in this article is proprietary or worthy of you spending any money.  You don’t need a consultant to get started.  You just need a message and an audience.  Some sales skill helps, too.

There are other questions that you’ll need answers to before considering a career as a professional speaker, but they aren’t critical for a starting strategy:
  • Should I ever speak for free? Why or why not?
  • What about speaker’s bureaus?
  • Do I need a book? A collateral product?
  • Should I also consult? Train? Coach?
  • What is your fee? Do you have a special rate for nonprofits?

And if anyone is shocked when they find out you make thousands of dollars for “just talking an hour” – explain to them what it took to make the stage.  It’s a rewarding business, but the work and preparation required to get to the big stage limits the competition.

Probably the best thing to do is… start.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the November Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post How Can I Become a Professional Speaker? appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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Tips for Reducing Anxiety When Speaking

Fear is real and it’s the main reason for most of the calls we get here at MillsWyck Communications.  The callers are from all walks of life, all levels of experience, different cultures, have ranged from age 7 to over 70, and speak all languages.  The problem is the same.  “I get anxious (scared, frightened, freeze up, nervous, tense) when I have to speak.  Can you help me become a more confident speaker?”

Searching Amazon for a book on the “fear of public speaking” turns up over 300 titles that promise to cure you of this dreadful affliction (Note to self: since I don’t think you can overcome fear, I haven’t written that in my blurb, so my book, Presentation Sin, is noticeably absent from the list).  Virtually all humans share some level of dread when they have to speak in front of their fellow man.

Jerry Seinfeld has given ammunition to people to justify their fear:  “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

But I have a different view, possibly in part because I still get nervous when I speak (I have over 12,000 hours of speaking experience and have been doing it full-time for close to three decades). If I can’t get over my fear, then maybe it’s not going away!  Just last month, I heard a lecture from a psychologist who says that nervousness comes from the same part of the brain that excitement originates from.  It’s a sign that what you’re doing is important.  Your speaking matters.  And, not surprisingly, that causes anxiety.

Here are two examples from common life that educate us in our pursuit of eliminating our fear. Driving

I am in the process of training another teen driver.  Different gender, different personality, same issues.  Fear of merging.  Imprecise assessment of speed and distance.  A strong aversion to attempting new situations (like multi-lane highways, parallel parking, driving in the rain, or rush-hour traffic).  But I’d guess 99% of you reading this have no issues with any of those tasks and aren’t the least bit afraid to drive across town in any situation.  But flashback to age 15 – you were also scared.  Why the difference now? (Hint: you can do it well)

Baseball

Hitting a baseball is said to be the most difficult task in sports.  I’ve watched many a young man fail.  Most don’t survive as competition increases and the balls get faster and harder.  But now I’m watching varsity high school ball and the kids are good.  Really good.  Some of them throw hard enough that I’d be scared to catch the ball, much less stand in the box and attempt to hit it.  I asked a student of mine who played college ball how he could hit a 90+ mph pitch.  His response: “I’ve been hitting a ball every day since I was six.”  Are you scared?  “Scared?  No, because I know I can hit it.  Or get out of the way if I have to.  But it’s a rush to stand there and try.”  In other words, it’s his ability that gives him confidence.

His answer is exactly what I wish to convey to anyone calling and asking for anxiety to understand, and it’s my standard response.  I cannot make you a confident speaker.  But I can direct you to become a great speaker.

Competence precedes Confidence.

It’s a wonderful method of distraction as well.  Instead of focusing on your increased heart rate as they call your name, you can concentrate on your posture, your first words, and how to vary your timing on your call to action.  Focus on the behaviors rather than the feelings.

My favorite story among my clients facing fear is also perhaps the most extreme case I’ve ever encountered.  This man had avoided public speaking since the 4th grade, even going so far as to change jobs twice to avoid the task.  When I met him, he was over 50.  He was willing to give it one final try.  Our coaching session did not start well.  When asked to speak (just he and I in the room), he just froze.  A minute of silence.  Head shaking, his eyes welled with tears.  “I can’t do this.”  I wondered if my psychologist friend would answer her cell phone if I called.  We pressed on, Q&A-style. Words began to come.  I’d stop, correct him, ask him to answer a little differently. Focused on small behaviors.  Pretty soon he was self-correcting, even laughing at himself for how bad his habits were.  After three sessions, I sent him off to his big meeting.  Since he was speaking on Day 2, I gave him some specifics to watch for in other speakers on Day 1.  I called at the end of the day to check in.  “I watched the speakers like you said. They don’t do any of the stuff you’ve taught me.  I may be the best speaker in the room!”  And just like that, anxiety wasn’t the issue, performance was.

At our next Powerful, Persuasive Speaking workshop, many of the participants will be there because of a stated desire to overcome their fear of speaking.  Maybe, just maybe, they can become confident.  But regardless, they will know how to be great.

Regardless of how you FEEL, you can execute on the skills that make you great on stage.

What would being a great speaker do for your feelings?

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the October Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

—————————————————————————————

Want more on public speaking anxiety?

Check out our free eBook from my friend Paige Armstrong, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker:

8 Techniques for Reducing Anxiety When Speaking

The post Fear of Public Speaking: Reducing Anxiety appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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The one thing a speaker should never mention

A speaker should never mention TIME when giving a presentation. I was coaching a group presentation the other day and (predictably) one of the presenters ran over their allotted time.  While we know a presenter should NEVER (ever!) run over time, what about when a prior presenter does?  The schedule is off.  You were promised time for your spot, but now that time is reduced.

This presenter did what I see so often, opening with, “Since we’re running a bit behind, I’ll try to speed through this a little to get us caught back up.”  Of course, everyone in the room hopes this is the case.  But I maintain a speaker should not mention time, except when he or she is done.

Mentioning time, even in passing, is problematic for several reasons:
  1. It puts the focus of the listener on something other than the message.  Since time is so precious, they are now more than ever aware that it is short.
  2. It puts the speaker “on the clock” – where the audience now expects the speaker to be on time because they are clearly aware of it.  This increases the pressure on the speaker.
  3. It takes precious time away from what should be said!

One of our instructors was presenting once and had this happen – he was slotted for a 25-minute talk at a conference, beginning at 11:30.  Guess what follows a twenty-five-minute talk starting at 11:30?  Lunch!  The previous slate of presenters gave him the stage at 11:53. If he gave the full presentation he would be drowned out by rumbling tummies. What to do?  Not mention time!  Instead, he used the system we teach and use which finds the core message and creates detail modularly instead of linearly. Rather than creating a script which must be read start to finish, we create blocks of modular content that can each be expanded or contracted, as appropriate. He began, “There are two things you need to know about XYZ.  And a third thing I want you to remember.”  He gave a one-minute opener, gave the three points less than 90 seconds each, closed in less than a minute and finished at 11:59.  Then he said, “The last thing I want you to remember, there’s a buffet in the hallway outside our room with hot food.”  No one other than the conference organizers really even considered that he had anything other than a 6-minute speech planned. That’s about the perfect way to handle that situation.  His lunch was overrun with people grateful to not lose their lunchtime.

Take a clock with you that you can see.  Find a way to present content within your allotted time.  But don’t talk about it publicly.  It’s a fact that only the presenter needs to know.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the September Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post NEVER mention TIME when giving a presentation appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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It’s starting to be a common call here at MillsWyck Communications.  “How can I become a professional speaker?” or maybe the more tentative, “Do you think anyone would pay me to speak?”  Usually it’s a person with an amazing story that’s been told repeatedly they should go “on tour”.  Sometimes it’s someone with stars in their eyes who believes it’s an easy way to make a living.  Rarely does the inquiry come with a realistic view of what it takes to make the stage for a price that makes it worthwhile.

I have lots of follow-up questions for the prospective professional speaker, like:
  • What do you mean by professional speaker?
  • Why do you want to be a professional speaker?
  • Do you have a need to make money soon?
  • Do you know anyone who is doing what you want to do?
In addition to those probing questions, there are three basic questions I tell people they must answer to be ready to ask for and receive paid speaking engagements. 1.)  What are you going to say?

Unless your last name is Clinton or Bush or Zuckerburg, your first name is LeBron or Oprah, you have two first names like Elton John, a title like King or Princess, or you landed an airplane in a river or a lander on the moon, chances are people are going to want your message to have something to say to the audience rather than the simple fact that you are you or have a (great) story.  Finding this message is hard.  I like to get clients to cull it down to one, simple sentence.  It usually takes us hours to discover.

  1. Client examples:
    • Little things make a big difference (customer service)
    • Make the first easy pass (simplicity)
    • Ordinary people do extraordinary things every day (inspiring others)
    • Championship teams embrace a culture of change (overcoming obstacles)
2.)  Who are you going to say it to?

Just because you have a great story or a great idea does not mean that an audience will want to hear you relate your wisdom.  The more specific you can get about who you are speaking to, the more you can market and book speaking engagements successfully.  “All humanity” is a bad target market.  People who have had adversity is likewise too vague.

The follow-up question to knowing your target audience is this: Are these people all in the same room at the same time?  If you’re trying to speak to developers using Java through SASS, then the answer is probably yes.  If the target is people who have faced cancer, then they probably aren’t all at the same conference at the same time.  That makes marketing more difficult.

Client examples:

  • Engineering and Construction owners and managers
  • Youth who aspire to play a role in politics
  • Agile programmers and managers
  • Leaders and executives facing large-scale change
3.)  Who is going to pay you to say it?

This is the reality check for a lot of great people with great messages.  The most common example is people who want to inspire youth to stay off drugs or find their purpose in life or a great cause like animal rights or educating the homeless so they can be productive members of society.  The problem in most of these cases is the audience is not likely to pay a cent to hear your message.  Youth aren’t lining up with wallets open to hear people inspire them to become wonderful adults.  Adults may pay to have the youth in their life hear such a message, but we’ve got a gap between who hears the message and who pays for the message.  Identifying the buyer is critical for any business, and none more criticial than speaking.

Client examples:

  • (very common) The corporate sponsor of a large-scale event (division meeting, customer conference, trade show/expo)
  • Team leads and managers with a specific need (everything from college coaches to a sales manager to a church or civic organization)
  • Meeting planners (hired by some entity to handle the hiring of a speaker)

These questions are necessary, but not sufficient.  You’ll also need a presence (most likely a web presence) to show your legitimacy.  You’ll need a method (email, direct mail, cold call) to contact your buyers. You’ll have to have a sample video to demonstrate competence (people are not going to hire a speaker sight unseen).  You’ll probably need some method for collecting names and prospects to have a constant prospect list.  You’ll need a system for following up to close the deal.  And you’ll need a rate sheet everyone can understand so you can get paid.  There are a LOT of variables and nuances.  The de facto leader in educating and implementing the business of speaking is the National Speaker’s Association.  You can spend tens of thousands of dollars with their members putting a system in place.  Many are worth their fees, and then some.  But at its core, speaking is just another business.  You must have a worthy product presented to people who have a need and the ability to pay.  You must overcome obstacles and strike quickly when opportunity arises.  Nothing in this article is proprietary or worthy of you spending any money.  You don’t need a consultant to get started.  You just need a message and an audience.  Some sales skill helps, too.

There are other questions that you’ll need answers to before considering a career as a professional speaker, but they aren’t critical for a starting strategy:
  • Should I ever speak for free? Why or why not?
  • What about speaker’s bureaus?
  • Do I need a book? A collateral product?
  • Should I also consult? Train? Coach?
  • What is your fee? Do you have a special rate for nonprofits?

And if anyone is shocked when they find out you make thousands of dollars for “just talking an hour” – explain to them what it took to make the stage.  It’s a rewarding business, but the work and preparation required to get to the big stage limits the competition.

Probably the best thing to do is… start.

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the November Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

The post How Can I Become a Professional Speaker? appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

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Tips for Reducing Anxiety When Speaking

Fear is real and it’s the main reason for most of the calls we get here at MillsWyck Communications.  The callers are from all walks of life, all levels of experience, different cultures, have ranged from age 7 to over 70, and speak all languages.  The problem is the same.  “I get anxious (scared, frightened, freeze up, nervous, tense) when I have to speak.  Can you help me become a more confident speaker?”

Searching Amazon for a book on the “fear of public speaking” turns up over 300 titles that promise to cure you of this dreadful affliction (Note to self: since I don’t think you can overcome fear, I haven’t written that in my blurb, so my book, Presentation Sin, is noticeably absent from the list).  Virtually all humans share some level of dread when they have to speak in front of their fellow man.

Jerry Seinfeld has given ammunition to people to justify their fear:  “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

But I have a different view, possibly in part because I still get nervous when I speak (I have over 12,000 hours of speaking experience and have been doing it full-time for close to three decades). If I can’t get over my fear, then maybe it’s not going away!  Just last month, I heard a lecture from a psychologist who says that nervousness comes from the same part of the brain that excitement originates from.  It’s a sign that what you’re doing is important.  Your speaking matters.  And, not surprisingly, that causes anxiety.

Here are two examples from common life that educate us in our pursuit of eliminating our fear. Driving

I am in the process of training another teen driver.  Different gender, different personality, same issues.  Fear of merging.  Imprecise assessment of speed and distance.  A strong aversion to attempting new situations (like multi-lane highways, parallel parking, driving in the rain, or rush-hour traffic).  But I’d guess 99% of you reading this have no issues with any of those tasks and aren’t the least bit afraid to drive across town in any situation.  But flashback to age 15 – you were also scared.  Why the difference now? (Hint: you can do it well)

Baseball

Hitting a baseball is said to be the most difficult task in sports.  I’ve watched many a young man fail.  Most don’t survive as competition increases and the balls get faster and harder.  But now I’m watching varsity high school ball and the kids are good.  Really good.  Some of them throw hard enough that I’d be scared to catch the ball, much less stand in the box and attempt to hit it.  I asked a student of mine who played college ball how he could hit a 90+ mph pitch.  His response: “I’ve been hitting a ball every day since I was six.”  Are you scared?  “Scared?  No, because I know I can hit it.  Or get out of the way if I have to.  But it’s a rush to stand there and try.”  In other words, it’s his ability that gives him confidence.

His answer is exactly what I wish to convey to anyone calling and asking for anxiety to understand, and it’s my standard response.  I cannot make you a confident speaker.  But I can direct you to become a great speaker.

Competence precedes Confidence.

It’s a wonderful method of distraction as well.  Instead of focusing on your increased heart rate as they call your name, you can concentrate on your posture, your first words, and how to vary your timing on your call to action.  Focus on the behaviors rather than the feelings.

My favorite story among my clients facing fear is also perhaps the most extreme case I’ve ever encountered.  This man had avoided public speaking since the 4th grade, even going so far as to change jobs twice to avoid the task.  When I met him, he was over 50.  He was willing to give it one final try.  Our coaching session did not start well.  When asked to speak (just he and I in the room), he just froze.  A minute of silence.  Head shaking, his eyes welled with tears.  “I can’t do this.”  I wondered if my psychologist friend would answer her cell phone if I called.  We pressed on, Q&A-style. Words began to come.  I’d stop, correct him, ask him to answer a little differently. Focused on small behaviors.  Pretty soon he was self-correcting, even laughing at himself for how bad his habits were.  After three sessions, I sent him off to his big meeting.  Since he was speaking on Day 2, I gave him some specifics to watch for in other speakers on Day 1.  I called at the end of the day to check in.  “I watched the speakers like you said. They don’t do any of the stuff you’ve taught me.  I may be the best speaker in the room!”  And just like that, anxiety wasn’t the issue, performance was.

At our next Powerful, Persuasive Speaking workshop, many of the participants will be there because of a stated desire to overcome their fear of speaking.  Maybe, just maybe, they can become confident.  But regardless, they will know how to be great.

Regardless of how you FEEL, you can execute on the skills that make you great on stage.

What would being a great speaker do for your feelings?

Communication matters, what are YOU saying?

This article was published in the October Edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

—————————————————————————————

Want more on public speaking anxiety?

Check out our free eBook from my friend Paige Armstrong, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker:

8 Techniques for Reducing Anxiety When Speaking

The post Fear of Public Speaking: Reducing Anxiety appeared first on MillsWyck Communications.

Read Full Article

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